I was meeting up with the Mokpo crew this past Wednesday night and a few of us were reflecting on how the year has kind of flown by (expected as the end is close enough to see) and how living in Korea has become our reality. Because it's become our reality, we tend to blog less because we're no longer removed from our situations or thinking about how things are so different here; we just tend to take things naturally and so we tend to blog less because we think we have less to say. On top of that, whatever we're feeling at the time, we tend to think we're always going to remember feeling that way. We fail to really understand that feelings and memories fade over time. If we want to capture that moment, we need to record it. As we were talking about this, I realized it's why I don't blog as much anymore. I take things for granted in Korea. My grant year has been awesome and it's become my "real life."
Anyway, a rundown of the past happenings (non school related first) since my last blog:
I hit up the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival (광양 국제매화문화축제) on March 24th with Payal, Anna, Kathy, and Tracey. Payal, Anna, and Kathy came into Gwangju on Saturday so we went to the Gwangju Uprising Memorial, which was cool. It's the first "touristy" thing I've done in Gwangju. They stayed in a love motel but I went back to Mokpo and met up with them at the festival the next day. To be honest, the festival wasn't that good. I expected something spectacular, as it is an "international" festival. It was... mediocre at best. Honestly, I can't say it was that memorable because it REALLY wasn't. It fell very short of any expectations. The funny thing is, the same flowers bloom everywhere in Korea. There are tons of those trees in Mokpo and there are actually a bunch of those trees on my school grounds. On the bright side, I did get to see some friends.
The next weekend, on the 30th, I went to see G Dragon in concert with a bunch of people. It was mostly a lot of the Busan girls, Mokpo girls, and some others like Amy T and Amber. That was pretty fun overall but the concert also fell a bit short of expectations. It seemed like GD got tired really quickly and he wasn't even singing half the time. He would stop singing at parts and it would just be the music overlaying in the background. I mean, he was decent and I had a good time but I don't think he was at his best. Also, we were scattered about in different seats so we weren't sitting together. He's definitely an entertainer though. He's got a great persona, which is what makes him GD. That Sunday was Easter so I went to a new church (Anthony's church) in Seoul with Tracey. It's always so nice to be surrounded with a community and fellowship. I really miss that in Korea and I'm really looking forward to it when I get back to America.
The week following was pretty eventful. There was the Fulbright Jeju Conference from April 5th-8th. Most of the Mokpo crew took the ferry (4.5 hours from Mokpo to Jeju) and the earliest one running on Friday morning wouldn't get us to the conference in time. Thus, we took the Thursday ferry instead and I got to miss an extra day of school. The other eventful thing was my birthday!!! I turned 23 (my real age, not this stupid Korean age where I feel older than I am). Anyway, conference was pretty good. I haven't seen the ETAs together in such a long time so it was nice. Honestly, I didn't hang out with that many people but still, it was nice to just be in everyone's presence. It was a different vibe from Fall Conference for sure though. The researchers came too and gave presentations. A lot of them were spectacular and made me want to do my own research. We had a tour around Jeju on Sunday and it was super windy. The atmosphere of Jeju I got is so different from the mainland. Jeju felt more like America to me; in part, it had to do with the obscene number of foreigners there. The way the roads were set up and the general atmosphere just felt more like the States. It was interesting and definitely nothing like the rest of Korea.
This brings me up to this week. I went to Seoul this past Friday night to go see Psy in concert on Saturday. I met up with a bunch of the ETAs who happened to be in town for a night out as Bruce (one of my past Orientation Coordinators) is leaving Korea on Wednesday. After a really late night out, Tracey, Amy T, and I went to Yeouido park for the flower festival. We also strolled about the park, got some Indian food, and did some shopping at the IFC mall next door. Psy's concert on Friday was absolutely amazing. He is a great entertainer and performer; probably one of the best of our time. He knows how to entertain the crowd and he definitely gives the crowd what they want. He actually was on this flying belt thing and he came really close to me. He was like 30 feet above me in the air. It was incredible. He came out to do encore presentations like 7 times. His concert was well done. There were guest appearances by Lee Hi, 2ne1, and GDragon. To be quite honest, GD was better at Psy's concert than at his own concert 2 weeks ago. After the concert, we saw GD in person on the floor above us. His room was on the second floor and we actually caught him as he was leaving. It was crazy. Sunday was a good day too. I woke up early to go to Gwangju so I could go paintballing with a bunch of other ETAs. It was so much fun. Who would've thought that running around while hiding behind trees and wood, and shooting people with paint, could be so much fun? I wasn't super close to anyone who went paintballing but it was great to hang out with people I usually don't see. That's actually something I really like about the ETA community; it's easy to get along with everyone and start conversations with anyone.
In relation to school topics:
I had people video chat/interview with my classes. I started a video call with them and had my students ask them questions and whatnot. I think a lot of my classes had a lot of fun with it and really enjoyed seeing someone else from America through a webcam and computer. Some of my kids were shy around a new person and wouldn't ask questions. Some classes were sweet. Of course, some classes were horrendous. There was one class where I got through maybe 10 minutes and they were just out of control. I stopped the video chat and just punished them the rest of the class.
Tomorrow, I'm going to Seoul with my students. This Monday to Wednesday is a school retreat for my students. All the first years are going to some mountain. The second years are going to some random city. Both of the grades are doing some type of "training" or "boot camp" so I've heard. The third years are going to Seoul to go to Everland (theme park), Seoul National University, and some type of "Job World". I'm joining the third years, which I'm really excited about. I was actually supposed to go with the second years but I kind of begged to go with the third years because it sounds so much cooler and more fun. The reason there was a slight problem was because all the third year homeroom teachers are men. I'm the only female teacher going and so they have to reserve a separate room for me. I offered to room with the female students or even pay for my own room but they said it wasn't necessary. I feel slightly bad but I know they wouldn't have approved it if they didn't want me to go with them. I would actually say that the third year homeroom teachers all love me. Whenever I go into their office, they also give me something (oranges, food, etc) and always joke with me. Almost none of them speak any English so it's a lot of smiling, nodding, and broken Korean but I absolutely love them all. They're a bunch of ajusshis but they're so kind to me. I've gone hiking with two of them. I think I might stop by and grab some coffee for all of them before going to school in the morning to get on the bus to go to Seoul but I have to see if it's possible to carry 8 cups of Americano. Regardless, I'm really excited to go tomorrow.
So at conference, Maggie brought up the fact that we have less than 100 days left in Korea. The countdown has begun officially. I mean, I haven't really started to count down but the idea is there now. The fact that I know there are more days I have in Korea gone than to come, is... paralyzing. That's the only word I can really think of saying. Throughout this year, the idea of possibly renewing or staying in Korea was nonexistent because of the fact that I had a job coming into Fulbright. Now, I think nostalgia is hitting me as I think about leaving my kids, my school, my homestay, my Fulbright friends, Korea. It almost makes me want to renew. If I'm honest with myself, I think I would renew if I didn't have a job or anything lined up for next year. I'm not sure if it's really me talking or like... nostalgia talking. When I mentioned how I kinda wish I could renew, Liam said it was just the fact that the countdown of leaving Korea has begun. It's made me emotional and nostalgic. It makes sense and I'm not sure if he's right or not.
Anothing random thing was that a friend who works at the firm I'm starting at this September asked me to call her last week "to talk". I called her and we chatted about insignificant things before we got to the reason why she wanted to talk to me. The short version is, she was telling me how I should really think about going to the Chicago office instead of the SF office. She gave me a bunch of reasons why the Chicago office is better including the strong class bond of BAs, the access to so many partners and associates, "Super Fridays" where they buy lunch for the office and there's happy hour and networking, etc. The thing that sucks is that she is only repeating my fears. I struggled with the decision to pick the SF office compared to the Chicago office but ultimately, it came down to the fact that I wanted to live in SF. I have a few friends out there now (and a lot of friends who want to move out there too) but my network in Chicago is substantially larger. The SF office has 1-2 other BAs while Chicago is the hub and has over 10 BAs. I mean, it's too little, too late now as I've already sent in my paperwork and it would be headache for them to change my office location this late in the game. I guess, I'm just more nervous than ever now because I will be starting a new job in a new city with a weak support system. To be optimistic about it, I'll just say that it'll be a new challenge.